“In light of climate change, we must make nature our ally”

Climatologist Jean Jouzel in Paris in March 2019.

On 28 February, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued on 2.and part of its sixth report in thirty years. With a focus on the effects, vulnerabilities and adaptation to the climate crisis, it is even more alarming than the previous one, dated 2014. Paleoclimatologist and glaciologist Jean Jouzel delivers his analysis of the current situation and its prospects.

The sixth report from the IPCC has just been published. What inspires the often inaudible side of this type of document about climate change in you?

This was partly expected, and at the same time it shows that environmental problems, despite their extreme urgency and seriousness, are only rarely prioritized. Although the current war in Ukraine, given its energy challenges, undeniably has a climate dimension, it has further highlighted our dependence on Russian gas, the need to move towards energy autonomy and, above all, to develop renewable energy significantly. .

This report highlights more than ever the interdependence between ecosystems and human societies. However, the collective awareness on this subject is slow. Why ?

Yes, we continue to be very selfish and see global warming from our vantage point. But nature suffers as much as we do. Heat waves have consequences for livestock, on livestock, to the point that some farmers in France study air conditioning in their stables. Let us not forget that global warming is the third cause of biodiversity loss. And that, if left unchecked, the ability to move part of the fauna and flora will be less than the rate of climate change. Some species have already disappeared. In addition to 2 ohC, all coral reefs are at risk of being affected. The scientific evidence that climate change threatens humanity’s well-being and health is now “unequivocal”.

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With accelerating warming, ecosystems are struggling to regenerate, while human adaptation is declining. How to stop this trend?

What seems to me essential in what this report proposes is still the idea that, in adapting to climate change, we must make nature our ally. Ecosystems are threatened by global warming, but they also play a significant role in our resilience. Adaptation is divided into business sector as well as regionally. For the coastal cities of a country like Bangladesh, of course, it will be inevitable. In France, according to some studies, one million people could be hit by the coasts after 2050, mainly during high tide.

Some solutions are more in line with the idea that we can dominate nature rather than try to be in harmony with it

In response, in some cases, we will have to agree to provide more space for the seas through the withdrawal of certain infrastructures to avoid flooding in places. Reforestation can also be an interesting solution. However, provided that it respects biodiversity. Nature projects in the city are also popping up, though it remains at a too slow pace. In the same way as climate services – according to the meteorological model, but in the longer term – to help decision-makers to project themselves, such as elected representatives for tourist areas in the mountains.

To avoid the need to reduce CO emissions2, some countries or organizations prefer to offer technological solutions. How do you see these opportunities?

I am not against research, on the contrary. But some of these solutions – which are more about the idea that we can dominate nature rather than trying to be in harmony with it – do not have my preference. Especially since some, like manipulating solar radiation, seem dangerous to me. This is what the Americans, pressured by certain GAFAs, are trying to sell us. This technology consists of sending aerosols into the lower stratosphere, like a volcanic eruption, causing a cooling of a few tenths of a degree for a while. However, there are not only risks that this will not work, but also potential side effects on precipitation and the ozone cycle. Moreover, if in twenty or thirty years an event like a war were to occur and we stopped this process, we would risk seeing the degree of warming avoided over several decades being resumed in three or four years only. That is why to lay a sword of Damocles on the youth of today.

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Some consequences of global warming remain unpredictable. In what area, for example?

The average rate of global warming is what our scientific community had expected, taking into account the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which has doubled over the last fifty years. And the same goes for sea level rise, which is now twice as high as in the last century. But it is true that at certain points there is uncertainty. About the evolution of precipitation or the El Niño phenomenon, for example. Similarly, models for intensifying cyclones are still poorly developed. Incidentally, the extreme temperatures and associated fires in British Columbia, Canada, had not been predicted. [en juillet 2021]. And above all, we realized we were almost 50 ohC, we were heading into a world where we can no longer control anything. The villages are burning, nature is being destroyed, there are human losses and the infrastructures are not resisting.

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Faced with such risks and beyond the need to reconsider our relationship with nature, what is your main message?

It seems to me essential to repeat that every half degree counts. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to meet the long-term goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 ohC, but we must do our utmost immediately to achieve this, without always having other priorities holding us back. Nearly 120 countries have embraced the idea of ​​carbon neutrality by 2050 – China in 2060 and India in 2070 – but these ambitious messages are still limited to good intentions. Among other places in France. But if we reached our goal of achieving a 33% renewable energy mix by 2030, and if we showed more sobriety, it would already be a big step. Some French people would probably not see their quality of life deteriorate if they chose less bulky and emissive vehicles. And yet even this idea, which had been proposed by the citizens’ convention, was not taken seriously.

This article was produced as part of the Global Positive Forum, organized by the Institut de l’économie positive, which will be held on March 9 from kl. 9.00 to kl. 13.00 in Paris in the auditorium i World, partner for this event. The forum will bring together more than twenty personalities to discuss the themes of childhood and education, the fight against inequality and the need to unite people with nature to solve the climate challenge. Sign up for the event and follow the conference live here.

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